It’s possible to establish in a school a Student Advisor, with its own office in the school’s organisational set-up, containing one or more personnel with specific duties. Let’s have a look at how this can be implemented to achieve the maximum beneficial effect upon the school as a whole.
The functions of the Student Advisor are
• Designing and running student pastoral programmes
• Ensuring new students are enlightened re school rules
• Monitoring Child Protection
• Acting as senior medical liaison
• Overseeing senior class tutors
• Reviewing exam procedures
• Organising and delivering external exams and mock exams
• Issuing exam results
• Monitoring student behaviour
• Testing students re school rules
• Designing and running student ethics programmes
• Doing any needed drug/smoking/alcohol testing.
On reading over these, and in the light of experience and what is needed and wanted in the running of the school on a day-to-day basis, some notes should be made:
1. There is a subtle difference between ‘student pastoral programmes’, and ‘student ethics programmes’.
‘Pastoral’ indicates that the student is being helped to understand something to do with life and living - perhaps basic diet, sleep or personal relationships or things of that nature. This infers that it is more of an educational step for the student. There wouldn’t necessarily be an ethics or behavioural inference to such a programme.
‘Ethics’, on the other hand, indicates that something contra-survival has happened - an act or incident or pattern of such - which needs correction. Students on ethics programmes would clearly be in trouble for persistent behavioural issues and would be doing such things as a programme of this nature would require - making amends, agreeing to promisary notes, writing up actions or reports etc.
The two could and perhaps frequently would work together, though they are different functions. For example, a student completing an ethics programme may naturally move over onto a pastoral programme so that he or she cemented progress and got the data they might need in order not to go off the rails ethics-wise again.
Both kinds of programme would be in the sphere of the Student Haven and would be monitored and run by her per the above post description.
2. Ensuring that new students are enlightened re the school rules will involve close liaison with both Admissions as a new student arrives. It’s very difficult to ‘enlighten’ a student on the rules if he or she cannot speak a word of English. This is where it might be helpful to have a set of basic rules translated into the main languages encountered by the school to help this function along.
3. Monitoring Child Protection is an obvious one given the nature of this post - but major decisions regarding how to proceed with Child protection matters fall to the Head.
4. Overseeing senior class tutors was included in the hat because the Student Haven, by the very nature of its function, will be dealing with many students across the school to do with pastoral and ethics matters, and so would need to be in close communication with all the senior tutors who also have roles in this area.
5. Not much needs to be said about the Examining Officer role as long as it is recognised that in the Summer term particularly this becomes an intensive function.
6. When it comes to monitoring student behaviour, the major change that probably needs to be made is to move this from a ‘reacting’ position - in which the Student Advisor is called upon by subject teachers on a right-now operating basis as situations happen - to an ‘active’ position, in which the Student Haven seeks out known potential sources of trouble per already-existing data in folders, from class tutor or other reports, from Value Added Grids and from simple observation, and takes causative action before the student is referred to her by another staff member. This means drawing up a timetable and actively booking in certain students to see, and working with teachers to optimise this so as not to interfere too much with academics. In that way, a dozen situations can be ‘nipped in the bud’ and medium and longer term workloads be lessened.
There is another aspect to monitoring student behaviour which needs to be covered too. Sometimes, while interviewing students and getting them to confront their responsibilities for something that has occurred, the Student Advisor finds that a staff member -teacher or otherwise - has acted in a non-optimum way and perhaps has made a situation worse for the student and perhaps for the school. This is a delicate area, as sometimes the student, in ethics trouble, is trying to motivate and find someone else to blame - but sometimes it is quite clear that a staff member has behaved inappropriately or could have done better. While it isn’t the Student Advisor's job to approach the staff member or correct them, not to act in some way to fix what has been detected as a non-optimum action or even pattern of behaviour would be detrimental to the group and perhaps to other students. Therefore, as part of the job, the Student Advisor should write up what was found and route it as appropriate. This doesn’t mean lengthy reports, unless the situation really calls for them - but it does mean that an official communication outlining what came up, and containing specifics, should be routed to the appropriate department for any needed action.
In this way, the Student Advisor can ensure that not only the student benefits from its actions, but also the group as a whole - not to mention the potential for saving itself future work arising from an uncorrected area of the school.
The Student Advisor is potentially a key and exciting part of a school. Alone, it can make a huge positive difference to what we do. Clarified and aligned with the rest of the school it can really assist in directing a school towards a bigger and better future.